TV presenter and former Labour politician Brian Walden dies aged 86 from emphysema

TV presenter Brian Walden has died at the age of 86 following complications from emphysema.

The veteran broadcaster, who started his career as a Labour politician, died at home in St Peter Port, Guernsey on Thursday.

Walden began his career as a Labour politician, representing Birmingham Ladywood between 1964 and 1977.

He was known politically for an impassioned speech calling for capital punishment to be abolished before resigning from the House of Commons to work in television.

Walden was scouted by ITV where he worked on Weekend World among other programmes. 

He was best known for his tenacious interviews with high-profile politicians and was considered Margaret Thatcher’s ‘favourite’ interviewer.

During one famous grilling when her own Conservative cabinet were turning against her in 1989, Walden asked Mrs Thatcher whether she was ‘off her trolley’. 

He asked her: ‘You come over as being someone who one of your backbenchers said is slightly off her trolley, authoritarian, domineering, refusing to listen to anybody else – why? 

‘Why cannot you publicly project what you have just told me is your private character?’

Mrs Thatcher replied: ‘Brian, if anyone’s coming over as domineering in this interview, it’s you.’

His amiable style frequently beguiled his subjects, very often cabinet ministers, into straying into areas which they would rather not have discussed in public.

His wife Hazel said she was ‘happily married’ for 43 years and her late husband was ‘very cheerful, always happy and got on well with people’.

She said: ‘The biggest regret that he would have is that he didn’t live to see Brexit, because he was a passionate Brexiteer.

‘Margaret Thatcher would never have let things get as far as Theresa May has.

‘He agreed with Nigel Farage that the only way is out, unless we wish to give up our British rights and tradition to be held in a superstate.

‘To be dominated by a capricious and undemocratic Brussels-Berlin axis is not something he would have wanted.’  

His friend John Wakefield, who worked with Mr Walden at ITV as his producer and editor, said they had ‘a terrific time’.

‘Brian was an immensely lively and entertaining person to work with,’ he said.

Born Alastair Brian Walden on July 8, 1932, he was educated at West Bromwich Grammar School and won a major open scholarship to study at Queen’s College, Oxford.

In 1957, he was elected president of the Oxford Union. He completed a postgraduate course at Nuffield College, Oxford, before becoming a university lecturer.

During his parliamentary career he campaigned energetically for the liberalisation of cannabis and of the gambling laws.

He became known at Westminster as ‘the bookies’ MP’, and it was rumoured he received more money from the National Association of Bookmakers than his parliamentary salary. It was a rumour he did not deny.

After switching careers he presented various television programmes over the next decade or so, such as Weekend World, The Walden Interview and Walden.

Between 1981 and 1984 he was a member of the board of Central Television.

Walden won several awards, including the Shell International Award, the Bafta Richard Dimbleby award, and the TV Times favourite current affairs personality award. He was ITV personality of the year in 1991.

He continued to broadcast, and in March 2005 he began presenting a 10-minute programme on Fridays called A Point Of View on BBC Radio 4, in a spot formerly occupied by Alistair Cooke’s Letter From America.

Walden had by then moved to Guernsey, but he maintained his strong libertarian instincts and campaigned vigorously against the ban on fox-hunting. 

He leaves behind his widow and four sons. 


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *